By Betul Yuruk and Baris Seckin
GENEVA/ROME (AA) – The UN’s refugee agency said that a total of 700 migrants are feared drowned in the Mediterranean Sea since Wednesday while desperately trying to reach European shores from Libya.
William Spindler, spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Anadolu Agency on the phone on Sunday they are worried that 700 migrants from three boats have drowned.
Spindler said that at least 100 people went missing from a capsized boat on Wednesday in addition to 550 on Thursday, while the Italian Coast Guard retrieved the bodies of 45 migrants drowned on Friday.
Migrants from North Africa were trying to reach Italian coasts from Libya through Sicily.
Italian media reported that authorities have rescued at least 13,000 people from the sea this week and retrieved the bodies of 65 people, while hundreds are missing. The rescued migrants told the authorities about hundreds of missing people.
Italian Prime Miniser Matteo Renzi told Avvenire daily that Europe needs to develop an Africa strategy on illegal migration.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 190,000 migrants have reached Europe through the Mediterranean Sea (including the Aegean Sea) so far this year, and 1,475 people have drowned, making it the deadliest route for migrants in the world.
The organization says that through May 25, more than 37,000 people have reached Italy from North Africa from the Central Mediterranean route, and 1,093 people have drowned.
Italian authorities have reported a sharp rise in the migrant flow over the past week.
- Anadolu Agency reporter Fatjon Prroni contributed to this report from Ankara.